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Iowa State edges No. 19 Memphis 21-20 in Liberty Bowl

Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt (17) passes during the Cyclones' 21-20 Liberty Bowl win over Memphis last season.

AP PHOTO

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Quarterback Kyle Kempt walked onto the Iowa State football team before the 2016 season after stops at Oregon State and Hutchison Community College. No one had any expectations for him.

He hadn’t even thrown a collegiate pass in a game before he got to Iowa State.

As a walk-on, Kempt, a computer science major, needed a way to make some money last summer. The computer science program got an email from the Iowa State football strength and conditioning staff seeking someone to build a website that tracked if guys were being overworked or underworked.

Kempt applied.

“I was a student worker for the (football) program building a website for the team that we used,” Kempt said. “It helps out with how we’re tracking our players.”

His website must’ve worked. Iowa State had its best season since 2000 with an 8-5 overall record and a 5-4 conference record. Kempt broke Iowa State’s single-season passing completion percentage record, completing 66.3 percent of his passes.

He took over the quarterback position after Jacob Park left the Cyclones and guided Iowa State to wins over No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 TCU. On Saturday, he guided Iowa State to a 21-20 win over No. 20 Memphis in the Liberty Bowl.

Kempt completed 24 of his 38 pass attempts for 314 yards and two touchdowns in the game. Ten of the completions went to receiver Allen Lazard, including one of Kempt’s two touchdowns, but not before some heart-stopping moments.

On second-and-seven from Memphis’ 9-yard line, Kempt fired a pass into the end zone. It was picked off by Memphis defensive back Curtis Akins, but a roughing the passer penalty took it all back and gave Iowa State a first down.

Two plays later, Kempt fired another pass into the end zone. This time it was tipped by Memphis defensive back Josh Perry and Iowa State receiver Marchie Murdock before Lazard finally came down with it in the very back of the end zone.

“That’s probably the epitome of the season,” said Kempt. “Bad things happen and we were able to fight through it.”

And now the season is over. Iowa State’s seniors will go their separate ways, whether it’s the NFL or a regular job.

Except Kempt. Maybe.

The redshirt senior applied for a sixth year of eligibility on the basis that he was run out at Oregon State, being told that he was never going to play there. Iowa State and Kempt filed for the hardship waiver before the bowl game.

What’s his plan while he waits to hear back?

“I’m not doing a damn thing. I’m taking time off,” Kempt said. “Honestly though, some reflection too on this season. It’s hard for me right now thinking that this is the last time that I’ll be with this team.

“It’s more-so the group of guys than it is playing football. I’m around these guys every day and it just sucks it’s not going to be the same — ever. These are memories that are never going to leave us and this is a team that was always united through the season.”

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